Writer and political activist Wole Soyinka (Woh-leh Shaw-yin-ka) called for world religions to be more tolerant of other faiths during his Founders’ Day Convocation address today at Wake Forest University.
“I believe there is no greater force (than religion) that exists today for tearing apart our humanity, and that is why we must constantly applaud all sincere attempts to counter the menace of suspicion, intolerance and lack of understanding towards the religions of others,” said Soyinka.
A Nigerian-born human rights advocate and a Nobel Prize winner in literature, Soyinka spoke at Wake Forest as part of the university’s Year of Globalization and Diversity. He is currently the Woodruff Professor of the Arts at Emory University.
Contending major world religions are built upon the idea of being the only true path, Soyinka called for tolerance.
“Tolerance means humility, not daring to presume that one has found the ultimate answer or that one constitutes in his or her own person or sect, the only gateway to truth. All the religions, the so-called world religions that are built on such claims, have inflicted competitive agonies on humanity since the beginning of time,” he said.
There are religions that “point to the harmonization of faiths,” said Soyinka, adding these religions are little known, unassuming ancient wisdoms.
Soyinka said an open forum for religious beliefs is needed.
“What we must pursue, therefore, is not a competitive, bruising arena for the claims of ideology or religion, but an open marketplace of both ideas and faiths.”
Considered among Africa’s finest writers, Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986 and was the first black individual to win in that category. Soyinka is also known for speaking out against the human rights violations of Nigeria’s military dictators.
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